About the DECATS Program
  Program Overview Frequently Asked Questions
  Mission & History Testimonials
  Our Staff Our Crest
    Join our Staff Team
     
 
 
  Nickie Bounds
Mentor
   
 
     
  Brandon Bridger
Mentor
   
 
     
  Meris Bridger
Mentor
   
 
     
  Erica Caldwell
Mentor
   
 
     
  Elizabeth Carbonneau
Mentor
   
 
     
  Kaisha Davis
Mentor
   
 
     
  Loretha Daymon
Mentor
   
 
     
  Katie Decker
Mentor
   
 
     
  Carol Delac
Mentor
   
 
     
  Nici Esch
Mentor
   
 
     
  Ryan Ferrugia
Mentor
   
 
     
  Judy Flusche
Mentor
   
 
     
  Mariely Gomez
Office Manager
   
 
     
  Monica Gutierrez
Mentor
   
 
     
  Marilyn Hanovich
Mentor
   
 
     
  Cody House
Mentor
   
 
     
  Alex Kerensky
Mentor
   
 
     
  Lisa Lenzy
Mentor
   
 
     
  Jen Marshall
Mentor
   
 
     
  Flavio Melucci
Mentor
   
 
     
  Eileen Miles
Mentor
   
 
     
  Diana Muniz
Mentor
   
 
     
  Beth O'Neal
Mentor
   
 
     
  Lupe Palacios
Mentor
   
 
     
  Cielo Perdomo
Mentor
   
 
     
  Cinnamon Routt
Mentor
   
 
     
  Glenn Sharp
Fine Arts Coordinator
   
 
     
  Leigh Woods
Office Manager
   
 
     
  Daria Allen
Office Manager
   
 
     
  Susie Barone
Office Manager
   
 
     
  Samara Bodin
Mentor
   
 
     
  Jennifer Box
Mentor
   
 
     
  Cecilia Bravo de Lankford
Mentor
   
 
     
  Gina Breland
Mentor
   
 
     
  Mary Browder
Mentor
   
 
     
  Lauren Contreras
Mentor
   
 
     
  Tammy Croniser
Mentor
   
 
     
  Emily Engelking
Mentor
   
 
     
  Norson Fernandez
Mentor
   
 
     
  Stephanie Gaiser
Mentor
   
 
     
  Bernardo Garcia
Mentor
   
 
     
  Roxanne Giardina
Mentor
   
 
     
  Toni Johnson
Mentor
   
 
     
  Grace Kwong
Mentor
   
 
     
  Christopher Lee
Mentor
   
 
     
  Ruth Lim
Mentor
   
 
     
  Suzanne Lucas
Mentor
   
 
     
  Luke Malone
Mentor
   
 
     
  Jeanette Melendez
Mentor
   
 
     
  Benny Muniz
Mentor
   
 
     
  Laryssa Nesbit
Mentor
   
 
     
  David Pikler
Mentor
   
 
     
  Danielle Polzer
Mentor
   
 
     
  Roberta Puzon
Mentor
   
 
     
  Brittany Revia
Mentor
   
 
     
  Mary Revia
Mentor
   
 
     
  Lindsay Rust
Mentor
   
 
     
  Nelson Sanchez
Mentor
   
 
     
  Miriam Soto
Mentor
   
 
     
  Daniel Strange
Mentor
   
  Ms. Elizabeth Strange joined the DECATS team in 2016 and is excited to be an Assistant Program Director for DECATS at Strake Jesuit.

Ms. Strange graduated from Baylor University with a BS in Secondary Education: English. During the regular school year, she teaches high school English in Fort Bend ISD. Her years of being a mentor in DECATS and learning the methodology completely revolutionized her high school classroom and shares her experiences with anyone who will listen!
     
  Randy Takaoka
Mentor
   
 
     
  Carmen Talbert
Mentor
   
 
     
  Mary Allison
Mentor
   
 
     
  Seth Dalton
Junior Mentor
   
 
     
  Diana Davis
Junior Mentor
   
 
     
  Keri Doise
Mentor
   
 
     
  Tramayne Dye
Mentor
   
 
     
  Lucinda Dye
Mentor
   
 
     
  Suzanne Ettman
Mentor
   
 
     
  Silvia Gonzalez
Office Manager
   
 
     
  Angela Holden
Mentor
   
 
     
  Travis Hunter
Mentor
   
 
     
  Donna Hunter
Mentor
   
 
     
  Allison Hunter
Junior Mentor
   
 
     
  Sheila Jahn
Mentor
   
 
     
  Heather Koett
Mentor
   
 
     
  Jennifer Lynch
Mentor
   
 
     
  Meredith Mattern
Mentor
   
 
     
  Cristofer Mattern
Mentor
   
 
     
  Tara Merchan
Mentor
   
 
     
  Scott Muckelroy
Mentor
   
 
     
  Dawn Parker
Mentor
   
 
     
  Leslie Pavlock
Nurse
   
 
     
  Christine Powell
Mentor
   
 
     
  Peter Ramirez
Mentor
   
 
     
  Joey Scale
Mentor
   
 
     
  Mark Shamas
Junior Mentor
   
 
     
  Wendi Thibodeaux
Office Manager
   
 
     
  Vhirshante Thompson
Mentor
   
 
     
  Sarah Turner
Mentor
   
 
     
  John Barone
Executive Director
   
  Mr. John Barone is delighted to have served in the DECATS program from the beginning in 1994, as a Mentor three years and Director for the rest. He received his B.A. in Religious Education from the University of St. Thomas in Houston and his M.A. in Private School Administration from the Institute for Catholic Educational Leadership at the University of San Francisco. He has extensive background in child and adolescent development, Catholic education and youth ministry, workshop facilitation and teaching students with neurological differences.

Mr. Barone currently serves as Director of the Learning Resource Center at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory and provides trainings in classroom management for schools, churches and conferences throughout the nation. Mr. Barone is the author of several books, including his most recent, The Adaptive Teacher: Faith-Based Strategies to Reach and Teach Learners with Disabilities (co-authored with Charleen Katra, published by Loyola Press). His long-term commitment to DECATS is fueled by his passion for helping young people grow in their confidence, knowledge and skills, and to use their gifts in the service of others.

Mr. Barone is a member of the National Association for Gifted Children and the Texas Association for Gifted & Talented Children.
     
  Julie Berg
Assistant Program Director, St. Anne
   
  Ms. Julie Berg is very excited about serving as the Assistant Director of DECATS St. Anne this year. She started as a mentor in 2012 and looks forward to DECATS every summer.

Ms. Berg has been teaching for 23 years and is currently teaching sixth grade social studies and science at Collins Intermediate in The Woodlands.

Ms. Berg attended the University of North Texas where she received her Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies in 1996. She has two boys, Carson and Cooper who keep her very busy with their football schedules. She loves to read, soak up the sun and use her Silhouette machine to relax - and she can't wait to see all the Scholars this summer.
     
  John Michael Cuccia
Senior Program Director
   
  Mr. John Michael Cuccia has been a part of DECATS since 1998, first participating as a Scholar for two years and now continuing in his Senior Director role. He oversees admission and enrollment operations and directs the production of program media and communications. Mr. Cuccia has been dedicated to serving at DECATS for so many years because of the unique, life-changing experience Scholars undergo during their time with the program.

Mr. Cuccia is a graduate of Rice University with a B.A. in Mathematical Economic Analysis and a Business minor. He also holds an M.A.T. with Specialization in Educational Technology. During the year, he is Associate Director of Admission Information Systems for Undergraduate Enrollment at Rice University.

Mr. Cuccia is a member of the National Association of Gifted Children and the Texas Association of Gifted & Talented Children.
     
  Tonya Dixon
Program Director, Corpus Christi
   
  Ms. Tonya Dixon is delighted to return to DECATS for another exciting summer! Ms. Dixon joined the DECATS Team in 2008 as a Mentor and is honored to serve as Program Director at our Corpus Christi Catholic School campus! Ms. Dixon is committed to the philosophy and methodology of DECATS and enjoys witnessing the transformation within our Scholars, Mentors, and Parents. Currently, Ms. Dixon is the Professional Learning Specialist in the Staff Development Department in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District and has 20 years of experience in Education.

Ms. Dixon graduated from Prairie View A&M University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and earned a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from Sam Houston State University. Currently, Ms. Dixon is a doctoral student at Abilene Christian University.

Ms. Dixon has a genuine love for children and true passion for her profession. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, working on home projects, and spending time with her family and precious 15-year-old daughter, Bria, a DECATS Graduate Assistant! Ms. Dixon is excited for this summer's program, History in the Making, and creating memories with the DECATS community!
     
  Melissa Martin
Curriculum Director
   
  Mrs. Melissa Martin has been a part of the DECATS team since 2006, serving the program in a variety of roles, including Program Director and, most recently, Curriculum Director for all three of the DECATS locations. She enjoys working with mentors to design courses that allow Scholars' interests to flourish each summer!

During the school year, Mrs. Martin is a Principal in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD. She graduated from Baylor University with a B.S. in Elementary Education and later received her Master's in Educational Leadership from UTA. When not at school, Mrs. Martin enjoys traveling to new places, trying new restaurants and cheering on the Baylor Bears!
     
  Jillian Powell
Assistant Program Director, Corpus Christi
   
  Ms. Jillian Powell is excited to begin her journey with our DECATS family this summer. She is looking forward to meeting the Scholars, parents and new mentors! She began as a mentor at St. Anne and is currently serving as Assistant Program Director at Corpus Christi Catholic School.

Ms. Powell is a proud Panther of Prairie View A&M University. She received a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Reading and a Master of Educational Administration. Ms. Powell has taught for 15 years in Houston Independent School District and Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District. She has been a reading teacher, a Reading/Language Arts/ESL curriculum coach and currently is a Behavior Interventionist. She a mother of an active 8-year-old son that brings a smile to her face daily.
     
  Karen Rossetti
Assistant Program Director, Strake Jesuit
   
  Mrs. Karen Rossetti is ready to shoot for the stars alongside Scholars as they encounter new adventures in the galaxy in her sixth summer at DECATS! Karen served as a Mentor for five years and is honored to step into the role of Assistant Program Director at Strake Jesuit this year. She is thankful for the methodology that she has learned through the DECATS program and how it has completely transformed her teaching over the years. She grew up in Houston in the Bear Creek area and attended Cy-Fair schools. Karen received her English degree and secondary teaching certification from Texas A&M University. This is her 11th year teaching eighth grade English Language Arts for Fort Bend ISD in Sugar Land and seventh year as the head cheer coach at her school. Karen also enjoys reading, spending time with people, watching HGTV and serving at her church as a greeter and with the events team. She and her husband are also excitedly anticipating the arrival of their first child, a daughter, in July. Mrs. Rossetti is excited to see all of the new discoveries that will happen at DECATS this year!
     
  Kendall Shamas
Program Director, Corpus Christi; Assistant Curriculum Director
   
  Mrs. Kendall Shamas is looking forward to another exciting summer at DECATS. She has been a part of the DECATS program since 2008 serving as a Mentor, Assistant Curriculum Director and most recently as the Program Director for St. Anne in Tomball. She is looking forward to another great summer cultivating the gifts and talents of the Scholars.

Mrs. Shamas currently serves as the Assistant Principal of Middle School and Auxiliary Programs at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School in The Woodlands. She graduated with a B.A. in Elementary Education from the University of New Orleans and an M. Ed. in Educational Leadership from the University of St. Thomas. She is currently working on her doctorate in Ethical Leadership at the University of St. Thomas. DECATS is a family affair for Mrs. Shamas. Both of her children attended DECATS and have continued to be a part of the program each summer. In her spare time, Mrs. Shamas enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family.
     
  Chris Siemann
Program Director, Strake Jesuit
   
  Mr. Chris Siemann has been a part of DECATS since 2018, serving as a mentor before taking on the role of Program Director on Strake Jesuit's campus. He is looking forward to a summer full of joy, learning and friendship.

Mr. Siemann has taught Theology at Strake Jesuit since 2015 and, as of 2019, will serve as the Theology Department Chair. He is originally from the Chicago suburbs and graduated with a B.A. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame. He also holds an M.A. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame after serving in the Echo Teaching Theology program. Mr. Siemann loves sharing Houston with his beautiful wife and cannot thank her enough for the endless support she provides as he pursues his vocation!
     
  Cathy Stephen
Senior Leadership Adviser
   
  Mrs. Cathy Stephen serves as Senior Leadership Adviser for our program, supporting Directors in their work on our campuses. For 14 years, she was the previous Flagship Program Director and host Principal at St. Rose of Lima Catholic School.

As the Assistant Superintendent of Excellence for our Catholic Schools, Mrs. Stephen recruits, trains and inspires teachers and principals in professional development programs and webinars. Mrs. Stephen earned her M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction in Gifted and Talented Education. As a liaison to Catholic Schools, she continually fosters the growth of the DECATS program for all of our nominating schools. Her three children attended DECATS and are still connected to Scholars they met in the program.

Mrs. Stephen is a member of the National Association for Gifted Children and the Texas Association for Gifted & Talented Children.
     
  Elizabeth Strange
Assistant Program Director, Strake Jesuit
   
 
     
  Dr. Diane B. Cooper
Founder of DECATS
   
  Dr. Cooper received a B.A. at St. Joseph College, an M.Ed. at the University of North Texas and her Ed.D. at the University of San Francisco. She was a secondary English teacher and department chair for 10 years and was head of school for 28 years at 4 different schools (two in Dallas, Texas, one in Vero Beach, Florida, and one in Columbus, Ohio). She currently serves as principal of St. Joseph Academy in St. Louis. Diane founded DECATS (DeBusk Enrichment Center for Academically Talented Students) in 1990 at the Immaculate Conception School in Grand Prairie, Texas. She is a frequent speaker at educational conferences on gifted education. The National Catholic Education Association honored her as a National Distinguished Principal in 1990. In 1991, the U.S. Department of Education also honored her as National Distinguished Principal. She served on the Executive Board of the National Catholic Education Association, the Board of Directors for the Chamber of Commerce in Vero Beach, Florida and the Executive Board of the Florida Council of Independent Schools. She recently served as President of the Ohio Association of Independent Schools. Diane has been married to Charles Cooper since 1968. They have two grown children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.

"From its earliest beginnings with only 34 young students in Grand Prairie, DECATS has grown exponentially from a dream shared by a concerned educator with a wise and wonderful man, to a program that has multiple sites," Cooper said. "Thousands of students have benefitted from the intelligence, creativity, determination, and hard work of scores of talented people over nearly two decades. As one who was present at the birth of the DECATS program all those years ago, I stand aside now as a proud grandparent and marvel at how far we have come, what great work has been done, and how fortunate the academically talented children of Texas are to have this caliber available to them. The determination of one man, Manuel DeBusk, to bring this work into reality has been an inspiration and a joy and a life-changing experience for me."
     
  Edith DeBusk
Founder of DeBusk Foundation
   
  Mrs. DeBusk was educated in Texas public schools and graduated from SMU Law School. She was one of the outstanding pioneer women lawyers in the State of Texas. She was International President of Altrusa International, one of the large worldwide women's service clubs. For many years her health was poor, but it did not stop her from leadership in business and service. Mrs. Edith DeBusk was a Founder of DeBusk Foundation along with her husband, Manuel DeBusk.
     
  Jean DeBusk
Founder of DeBusk Foundation
   
  Mrs. DeBusk was educated in Texas public schools, Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) and received her Master's Degree from Texas Christian University. She taught in Texas public schools and at Hockaday Private School in Dallas. She was married to the Reverend Patrick Henry, long time Pastor of Northway Christian Church in Dallas. Rev. Henry died in 1983. She married Manuel DeBusk on January 18, 1992. Jean DeBusk served on the Board of Directors of DeBusk Foundation and endorsed wholeheartedly, the Foundation's objectives until she died on January 12, 2001.

"The vivid memory of my many-splendored visits with Houston DECATS in June will remain surrounded by a special glow and aura," DeBusk said. "I am indebted to you for introducing me to valued books that I would have missed otherwise. Years ago, actually another millennium, my granddaughter and I often read a favorite book together about a party where everybody had a wondrous time, a word to describe our delightful day with you, the splendid staff of mentors and assistants, and the great students of DECATS. How can we count the ways of your super hospitality and clear grasp of the significance of enriching educational opportunities' Thursday was a luminous day in memory and will retain that special glow."
     
  Manuel DeBusk
Founder of DeBusk Foundation
   
  Mr. DeBusk was educated in Texas public schools, attended Wayland Junior College, Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) and SMU Law School. He and his wife Edith established a law firm in Dallas specializing in Mortgage and Real Estate Law. He was active in Texas politics from 1936 through 1980. His long standing interest in education and civic service led to his appointment as Chairman of the Board of Texas Technological College and Chairman of the Coordinating Board of all Texascolleges and universities. He was an International President of Cosmopolitan International, an international service club. As Chairman of the Board of the Association of Small Foundations in Washington, D.C., he promoted small foundations. He was also a Special Agent with the FBI during World War II. The death of his wife, Edith was followed by two marriages to Jean Shelley Henry and subsequently to Darlena Blackwell, both of whom preceded Manuel in death.
     
  Dr. Marty F. Webb
Founder of DECATS in Houston
   
  Dr. Webb received her Ed.D. in private school leadership from The University of San Francisco. She holds a B.S. in special education from the University of Michigan and an M.Ed. in educational administration from Houston Baptist University. She has been a special education teacher, private tutor, consultant, college instructor and principal. Dr. Webb served for 17 years as principal for Corpus Christi Catholic School in Houston, a United States Department of Education Blue Ribbon School. She is the Founder of The Monarch Institute in Houston, which serves individuals with neurological differences and includes a therapeutic day school, diagnostic clinic, therapy services, training center, replication program and transition services. She is Monarch Institute's Executive Director Emerita, where she heads the capital campaign and provides consultation to the executive board and Institute leaders. She and her husband Eugene, a retired psychotherapist, are the parents of four grown children and fifteen grandchildren.

"We face a societal challenge to become more responsive to the needs of these gifted children, who have so much to offer our society," Webb said. "By acknowledging their uniqueness, we foster the uniqueness of all children, of all people. Together, we become partners in this win-win situation for children and adults."
     
     
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